Monagea G.A.A club originally known as William O’Brien’s, is one of the oldest in the county, having been founded in 1896. Whether this came about, because of a plentiful supply of ash, within the parish, the presence at the time of many young men of twenty, or the vision of a few dedicated young men is uncertain. What is clear that in Monagea hurling and football were played with a great deal of enthusiasm and no small degree of success in the early day of the fledgling organisation.
The first of these days came on the 31st of May 1903 when Monagea contested the delayed 1902 County Senior Hurling final played at the Markets Field in Limerick, when Monagea had to give best to Young Ireland’s on the score of 2-9 to 0-5.
Even before this Larry Sheehan of Camas had won an All Ireland Senior football medal, with Limerick Commercials at Jones’s Rd Dublin on Feb 6th 1898. Soon after he moved to Dublin where he was employed by McBirney’s on O’Connell Bridge. He was a member of the beaten Dublin team of 1904 but won another Senior All Ireland two years later when playing corner forward with Dublin against Cork.
In 1914 Dr Jim Reidy from Gardenfield became the first Limerick man to captain U.C.C to Fitzgibbon cup success a feat which was to be emulated twenty four years later in 1937 by Maurice Roche from the neighbouring townland of Ballygeale
Willie Hough Monagea’s most famous sportsman was born in the townland of Ballyshane in 1892. His father William was the first chairman of the West Limerick G.A.A board. As a student in De La Salle College in Waterford, Willie made his debut with Waterford in the Munster Championship of 1913 against the “Toomevara greyhounds”.
Two years later he lined out with Limerick against Tipperary at Dan Fraher field in Dungarvan. Between 1917 and 1923 he was a pillar of the Limerick team that reached seven consecutive Munster Senior Hurling finals. By now the team in Monagea had lapsed and in 1917 four men from the parish, Willie Hough captain, John Hough, Dan Greene and Ger Brouder were members of the Newcastle West team that won the County Senior hurling championship.
In 1918 Willie Hough became the first West Limerick man to captain an All Ireland winning Senior-hurling team, he lined out at centre back. He was to the fore again in 1921 and was on the beaten 1923 team. In 1936 he was elected treasurer of the Munster council a post he held with distinction for 26 years. He was principal teacher in Monagea School from 1914 until 1957 and was succeeded by Sean O’Sullivan from Ballinskelligs who had won an All Ireland minor medal with Kerry in 1933.
Ned Cregan was a next-door neighbour of Willie Hough. He was born in 1901 and joined the volunteers as a young boy. He fought with distinction in the War of Independence. In 1927 he made his debut with the limerick junior hurling team and soon graduated to the great senior that included Mick and John Mackey, Garret Howard and Mickey Cross. He played in the All Ireland Finals of 1933,34 and 35 and was very proud of the fact that he never left the field of play because of injury. His sons Eamonn, Mickey and Conor all played for Limerick and Mickey trained the victorious Limerick senior side of 1973. Ned Cregan died in 1972 a short time before his son Eamonn, the first player in Limerick to follow in his father’s footsteps by winning an All Ireland Senior-hurling medal.
Monagea contested the 1931 and ’34 junior hurling finals without success and it would be another 39 years before Paddy Hogan captained the club to our only success in this grade in 1973. Monagea produced many fine hurlers over those years and none better than Tom McGrath whose career bridged two generations and he is still hale and hearty. At a later stage Paddy McCarthy, Jerome Keane, Con O’Keefe and Liam McKessey were hurlers of outstanding ability.
A forgotten side of most G.A.A clubs is our sister association the camogie club. Although there is no longer a club in the parish, they were a force to be reckoned with in the thirties and forties. During this period Kit McGrath and Mary Ita Connell (nee Delee) played for Limerick and in 1934 Monagea were County senior champions when they defeated Foynes in the final. In recent years Monagea Ladies football club have been very successful at under age level due to the great work of Dan Doherty, Joan O’Callaghan and Eileen Carmody.
During the 1950’s Brother Eamonn Doody from Gardenfield was the guiding light behind Thurles C.B.S in Co Tipperary, when they won three Dr Harty Cup competitions and was trainer of the Tipperary minor hurling team when the premier county won six All Ireland Championships.
Monagea won the West junior b title in 1956. After failing to Tournafulla and Kilcornan in successive West Junior b finals. Monagea again won the title when they defeated an Abbeyfeale-Templeglantine selection in 1967 and repeated the success again in 1981 by defeating Kileedy in the final.
With the introduction of the Scor competitions in the early 1970’s, Monagea’s talent was to the fore. In 1971 Pat Mulcahy did the parish proud when he reached the Munster final in Public Speaking, a discipline which was annexed from the competition a short time afterwards. In 1995 Monagea’s ballad group consisting of Deirdre Scanlan, Maria Heirlihy, Dan Brouder, Pat Heirlihy and John Flavin represented Limerick in the Munster final.
The 1980’s was to prove an eventful decade in the history of the club. In 1986 David Hough who had taken over as secretary enlisted the services of the former outstanding Limerick and Dublin footballer Pa Leahy as trainer. Monagea went on to win the West and County Junior b football championship that year and repeated the success in hurling in 1987. These victories proved to be the turning point in the history of the club, and when Monagea again won the County junior B championship in 1991 with Stephen Murphy as trainer, nobody was surprised.
Over the years many dedicated people have worked hard with Bord na nÓg in Monagea. William Delee, Phil Sexton, Pat Mulcahy, Richard Barry, Seamus Flanagan, Pat Sugrue and John O’Sullivan have all devoted much time and energy to the youth of the parish. More recently Noel McCarthy, Jim Moore, Gerry Phillips, Breda Breen and Liam Heirlihy have taken up the challenge. The clubs most successful under age period however was in the late 1980’s. Around that time John McGrath and Tom Mulcahy both of who had won County senior hurling medals with Killeedy took over the running of the under age teams. Even with a good panel of players success did not come easily, particularly in hurling.
However in football a subtle but noticeable change was taking place. Monagea were now winning matches against more exalted opposition which they could and probably should have lost. This was due to more discipline on the field, some extraordinary and outstanding displays by the likes of Maurice Flavin and William Keane and perhaps crucially the ability of William Murphy to carve out match winning scores. The self-belief gained by those players at that time would be of immense benefit to them in the years ahead.
The 1980’s were notable for another reason. Until then generations of Monagea athletes had sharpened their skills on the theatre like setting of Lissurland. In this respect the generosity of the Magner family to Monagea G.A.A over the years is much appreciated.
In centenary year of the foundation of the Gaelic Athletic Association, 1984, a four acre site near Monagea parish church and close to the National School was purchased from Sean Riordan. A special fields committee was set up with the following as officers, President Rev Fr Patrick Howard, chairman John O’Sullivan, Secretary Noel McCarthy with Tom Brouder and Pat Harnett as joint treasurers, there was a further twelve people on the committee. Eight years later after much hard work and fundraising, locally, as well as generous national lottery grants, on May 31st 1992 a dream had come true for Monagea G.A.A club when, Pairc na nGeal Monagea was officially opened by Gearoid O’Beineid then Cathoirleach Contae Luimni.
It was a great and proud occasion for the club and the people of Monagea. While there was disappointment that none of the big three – Cork, Tipperary or Kilkenny could provide opposition to Limerick on that auspicious occasion. Ironically many of the Offaly team that graced the green sod of Monagea on that May evening were instrumental in Limerick’s downfall on that ill fated day in Croke Park two years later. On the occasion of the opening of the new pitch a comprehensive history of the club was compiled and written by Pat Sugrue and John O’Sullivan, for which we are very grateful.
In 1994 Monagea won the West Junior hurling league, in 1998 the West junior football league but success in the championship eluded us. In the spring of 1997 however David Hough asked Jack O’Dwyer the legendary Pallasgreen Centre back, to train Monagea. It was to prove a long arduous but in the end a memorable year, culminating when on an November evening in Kilmallock captain Eddie Hogan held aloft for the first time in the clubs history, the county Junior A hurling trophy, after Pat Heirlihy had recorded the winning scores. It was one hundred years since Larry Sheehan had brought the first All Ireland medal to the parish. The reception the teams received on their arrival in the local village of Strand will live for many a year in the memories of those who were present. Old Gaels were seen to shed tears of joy at the homecoming.
Tom McGrath a stalwart of the 1930’s was there to welcome his son John and his grandson John (who also played in the English Premier League with Aston Villa), both who had done Monagea proud earlier in the day.
In recent years John Flavin has created his own niche in the annals of the club, he has played hurling with Limerick in every grade and has also played junior football. His many fine displays in the famed green of limerick and the renowned Green and Gold of Monagea has been a source of pride and joy for the people of his native parish.
Monagea is a small club with limited resources; we have a long and proud tradition. There have been great days, good days and bad days, and not in that numerical order, but the spirit of the Association is still alive and well due to the continuous dedicated commitment, down through the years of people who are willing to give of their time for the betterment of the club
Gaelic football, once a proud and noble game has lost some of its traditional skills, primarily due to the over use of the hand pass. Hurling still retains many of the unique qualities, which embody courage and skill. To this end a local committee in Monagea have been working hard over the past couple of years to provide an indoor facility, where young players can practice and develop the traditional skills of a great game. Due to the unstinting work of this committee and the generosity of the club sponsors Cavanagh’s of Charleville and a sizeable grant from the National lottery, this facility has now become a reality.